For the second consecutive year, there will be no Centre County wrestlers going for a gold medal in the PIAA Class AAA Championships.
But unlike last year, there will be one on the podium.
Bellefonte's Brock Port won a tight 1-0 decision in the third round of consolations at 132 pounds to guarantee himself a medal on Saturday. He'll be back in action when the consolations begin at 9 a.m. Saturday morning at the Giant Center.
“It feels good, but it's hard to explain,” said the Bellefonte sophomore, who improved his season record to 32-3. “Now it's third place. It's not where we wanted to be, but it's the best we can do now.”
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Port's triumph over Cathedral Prep's TaNauz Gregory was the lone win of the day for the five Centre County wrestlers who were alive.
Bald Eagle Area's Seth Koleno (126) fell in both the quarterfinals and third-round consolations. Bellefonte's Trevor Corl (145), State College's Cory Dreibelbis (195) and BEA's Josh Fye (285) each fell in the second round of consolations.
Port, who lost 9-0 major decision to Waynesburg standout AC Headlee (43-1) in the quarterfinals, met Gregory for the second time in two weeks. The two squared off in the Northwest Regional quarterfinals in a wild match that Port won with a pin in overtime.
This time it was more of a chess match.
“They wrestled last weekend and they've been wrestling each other three years going back to junior high,” Bellefonte coach Mike Maney said. “Those guys were well prepared and had good scouting reports. That's happens when you see each other quite a bit.”
The match was scoreless through the first period. Port took down to start the second period and his early escape made the score 1-0.
Instead of choosing down to start the third period, Gregory took the neutral position.
Given the previous match, Port wasn't surprised that Gregory gave up a chance at the point for an escape.
“I figured that he would because the week prior I had ridden him an entire period and I had gotten back points,” Port said. “He took me down so I felt there was a good chance that could happen.”
“Brock is known to be tough on top,” Maney said. “I guess it was a little strategy on their part and to roll the dice, but certainly it played in our favor.”
It wasn't easy.
“It was the longest two minutes of my life,” Port said.
Port fended off every attack from Gregory, while trying to stay aggressive. During a stoppage with 21 seconds left, Port glanced at the clock and said he knew he could hold off Gregory.
“It's a lot of weight off my shoulders,” he said of the win. “It's good to know that I'm on the podium.”
Earlier in the afternoon, he ran into Headlee, one of the nation's top-rated wrestlers in the weight class.
Headlee scored a takedown and tilted Port for three nearfall points to take a 5-0 lead after one period. Another tilt and an escape accounted for the final margin.
“It was a tough match,” Port said. “It was not where I wanted to be.”
But he can reach as high as bronze. He will face Norwin's Josh Ridgeway (34-9) on Saturday.
“He still hasn't wrestled his best yet,” Maney said. “He has some really good stuff he can do. I don't know if it's nerves or giving guys too much respect. Hopefully, the fact that he's on the podium and he doesn't have anything to worry about, maybe he can go out and open up. If he does, he can put a lot of points on the board.”
Koleno lost a consolation battle that was a repeat of the Northwest Region final as he fell 7-0 against Williamsport's Roshaun Cooley.
The freshman was nearly wrestling in Saturday's semifinals.
He scored the only takedown, but lost a tough 3-2 decision to Boyertown's Lucas Miller in the quarterfinals.
Koleno got the takedown in the first period, but later received a penalty point for locking his hands. That point would be the difference. Miller later escaped in the period to tie the score at 2-2.
Koleno nearly escaped several times in the second period, but Miller hung on for the rideout.
In the third period, Miller finally wriggled away from Koleno with about 17 seconds left for the deciding point.
In the consolation match, Cooley did something he couldn't do against Koleno in the regionals --- score a point. Koleno won the regional final 1-0.
After a scoreless first period, Cooley tilted Koleno twice in the second period to grab a 4-0 lead. An escape and a takedown completed a 7-0 victory.
BEA's sensational freshman completed his season 31-6.
Teammate Fye, like Koleno a District 6 and Northwest Regional champ, fell 5-1 in the second round of consolations to Neshaminy's Bruce Graeber.
Graeber score a first-period takedown. Fye's second period escape made it 2-1 entering the final period.
Graeber got an early escape and fended off Fye's attacks until he countered the Eagle's late desperation attempt for a takedown and a 5-1 triumph.
Fye, a junior, finished the season 31-3.
Corl was the first on the mat in the consolations and drew Central Bucks West's Riley Barth, who had been unbeaten (34-0) before being upset in the first round.
A first-period takedown by Barth and a pair of escapes by Corl had the match even early in the second period. Barth got the advantage by countering Corl's single-leg shot with 10 seconds left in the second to take a 4-2 lead.
An escape and a late takedown as Corl pressed made the final score 7-2.
“Those things happen down here,” Maney said of Corl's tough draw. “You get upsets and you have to be prepared for anything.”
Corl finished his final season 31-5.
“He's had a great career,” Maney said. “He's made it here three times which is an accomplishment in itself. He's had over 100 wins, three times a District champ and a regional champ. I'm sure he's disappointed he didn't end up on the podium but he has a nice solid career to be proud of.”
Dreibelbis was making his first appearance in Hershey.
After losing by fall on Thursday, he acquitted himself before falling 5-2 to Bethlehem Catholic's Brandon Blobe.
After a scoreless first period, Blobe got an escape and worked around behind Dreibelbis for a takedown and a 3-0 lead.
Dreibelbis got an escape with 1:15 left and was awarded another point when Blobe was hit for stalling to make it 3-2. Blobe held him off, working behind for another takedown with 17 seconds left and a 5-2 triumph.
“I think he was a little less nervous today and he went after the kid a little more,” State College coach Ryan Cummins said of Dreibelbis. “The first match up here is always a little tough. The second one was a little bit better. Hopefully, he gains some experience for next season.”
Dreibelbis, a runner-up at regionals, finished his junior season.
“For his confidence level, I think it's really going to bring it up,” Cummins said. “It might light the fire a little more for offseason training before next season starts and it will help all of the way around.”
Notes: Penn State recruit Vincenzo Joseph of Pittsburgh Central Catholic put on a David Taylor-like performance to advance to Saturday's152-pound semifinals. Joseph (29-1) had seven takedowns in a 20-5 technical fall triumph over Scranton's Kazim Bakhriyev. … Nittany Lion preferred walk-on Kellen Stout (36-0) also rolled into the 182-pound semifinals with a 13-0 romp against Hazelton's Derek Spachman.